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Hagerty Employee

Engine revolution: Mazda’s rotary and its uncertain future

Conventional gas and diesel engines do a commendable job serving car and truck owners’ needs, but futurists insist that electric motors will eventually supplant them as the power source of choice. Some 50 years ago, a similar situation cropped up: Mazda’s ultrasmooth rotary engine had bright hopes of sending pistons the way of the buggy whip. With Mazda celebrating its 100th birthday this year, what better time to toast the brand’s most ambitious technical stride?


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Electric-rotary hybrid RX9... I love that idea. Bring back the zoom-zoom kid while they are at it.

New Driver

Interesting article.  I did my Master's Thesis on the exhaust emissions characteristics of the Mazda rotary engine.  It was an early (1970) R100.  Interesting comparison with the Chevy V-8.  Actually without its accessories the R100 Engine itself weighed about 125 pounds and put out an honest 100 BHP as measured on our dyno.  We originally were going to do a comparison test with the "State of the Art" for the day Vega engine but the Vega engine vibrated so badly that it would not hold a setting on our dyno.  The Wankel is a remarkable engine in many ways - would hate to see it disappear completely...


It's future? Museums. It's biggest feature was hype. In an industry that lives and dies on CAFE numbers and a shift away from gasoline power, it doesn't have a chance and really never did. To generalize, 100 HP from the weight of a 70 HP with the fuel consumption of a 130 HP engine? 


I worked on the rotary back in the 70s in Advanced Research. We were charged with finding a better apex seal. Never did solve the problem enough to improve the efficiency and reduce the emissions. 


A great idea that never came full circle 


I had a 1974 RX-3 and it was a great experience. I put over 100K miles on the car before I sold it. It was still running strong but oil consumption has increased to about 450 miles per quart. Fuel economy was disappointing. 18mpg was about the tops. It was the smoothest running car I've ever owned. At 30-35 mph you couldn't hear any engine noise what-so-ever. Got rubber in second gear with ease and even chirped the tires into third gear a few times. No engine work required. The car was hard on exhaust systems and I had to replace the electric fuel pump two times.

Hagerty Employee

i see what you did there
New Driver

I had a 1989 RX-7 GTU, wasn't the fastest thing going, but was a blast to drive, the 50/50 weight distro  so throwing it into corners was pure joy! And of course everyone always freaked out when I told them it had a whooping 1.3 liters and was a rotary...was a conversation piece among gear heads for sure! 


I sold the car a few years ago when it was just becoming too difficult to service the engine and (at least in my area) mechanics don't want to touch a rotary because they are just not familiar with them. 


Sadly, I think the time for rotary's have come and gone and that is a disappointment...I do miss my RX-7! 

New Driver

Concept was great but hope, faith, and heritage will never overcome simple laws of physics. Boatloads of money have been spent trying to change what can't be changed.